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Archive for the ‘1957’ Category

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Directed by Richard L. Bare
Produced by Richard Whorf
Written by John Tucker Battle and D.D. Beauchamp
Director Of Photography: Carl Guthrie, ASC
Art Director: Stanley Fleischer
Music by Roy Webb
Film Editior: Clarence Kolster, ACE

CAST: Randolph Scott (Capt. Buck Devlin), James Craig (Ep Clark), Angie Dickinson (Priscilla King), Dani Crayne (Nell Garrison), James Garner (Sgt. John Maitland), Gordon Jones (Pvt. Wilbur “Will” Clegg), Trevor Bardette (Sheriff Bob Massey), Don Beddoe (Mayor Sam Pelley), Myron Healey (Rafe Sanders), John Alderson (Clyde Walters), Harry Harvey, Sr. (Elam King), Robert Warwick (Brother Abraham).

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Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) sticks out like a sore thumb in Randolph Scott’s filmography. It sits right in the middle of the Ranown cycle (coming between The Tall T and Decision At Sundown) — a cheap little black-and-white contract killer shot on the backlot in 19 days by a crew (and sometimes cast) more accustomed to TV than features. It’s known more today for the early work it gave Angie Dickinson and James Garner than for Scott’s participation.

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James Garner: “The movie couldn’t decide if it was a comedy or a drama, maybe because [director Richard L.] Bare had gotten his start directing the ‘Joe McDoakes’ comedy shorts in the 1940s.”

Bare made a name for himself in shorts like the McDoakes pictures, directed a few features, then really found his place in early TV. He directed episodes of both Cheyenne and Maverick (he discovered James Garner in a bar on Sunset), and would go on to direct everything from The Twilight Zone to Green Acres (over 150 episodes of that one).

Richard L. Bare: “I was glad to see that my few years in TV had not knocked me out of the box for feature assignments. It was a story of three ex-soldiers who dressed up like preachers to avenge the death of Scott’s brother.”

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The soldiers are Scott, a pre-Maverick James Garner and Gordon Jones, and their journey takes to them to the rather lawless prairie town of Medicine Bend. Ep Clark (James Craig) runs the town and quickly winds up in Randy’s sites.

Richard L. Bare: “We were shooting a scene that called for the three of them [Scott, Garner, Gordon Jones] to swim in a lake [on the WB backlot] and come to shore. Scott said to me, ‘I’m not going in that water.’ I said, ‘Randy, the other guys are going to do it.’ He said, ‘Not me, not in that filth.’ So what I did was put Scott’s double in the water, and in the foreground I put Scott out of view behind a huge log, and when I called action, a prop man dumped fresh water on Scott, and Garner, Jones and Scott’s double swam to shore and ran to the log, and Scott’s double disappeared behind the log and Scott, all wet, popped up. And it worked just fine.”

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It’s a bit convoluted and goofy, and often played for humor. The action scenes are well done, and the film has the look and feel of a longer-than-usual Warner Bros. TV Western, which works just fine. Garner’s inexperience shows (“…my acting still wasn’t very good”). He lacks that supreme cool that came later. Angie Dickinson was two years away from Rio Bravo (1959), and comparing the two films, it’s amazing how much she developed as an actress during that time. (How much of that was Hawks’ doing?) Randolph Scott is, of course, Randolph Scott, and he handles the lighter, humorous stuff with ease. As he masquerades as a Quaker, his delivery makes the most of each line of dialogue. It’s fun to be in on his ruse.

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Warner Archive has given Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend a level of respect it’s probably never received before. It looks great, framed to the proper 1.85, with the contrast dialed-in just right. The audio’s got plenty of punch, letting Roy Webb’s score really shine. You might come to this one with high curiosity and low expectations. My advice: enjoy it for what it is. Recommended.

SOURCES: The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner and Jon Winokur; Confessions Of A Hollywood Director by Richard L. Bare; Last Of The Cowboy Heroes by Robert Nott

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Young Guns LC

For us Westerns fans, Warner Archive’s on a real roll this week. In addition to Nick Ray’s The Lusty Men (1952), and Randolph Scott, Angie Dickinson and James Garner in Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957), there’s some good Allied Artists stuff available today.

The Young Guns (1956)
Directed by Albert Band
Starring Russ Tamblyn, Gloria Talbott and Perry Lopez

This one mixes the Western with your typical 50s juvenile delinquency tale, beating both The True Story Of Jesse James (1957, Ray again) The Left-Handed Gun (1958) to theaters.

A couple Allied Artists pictures that were Oldies.com exclusives are now standard Warner Archive titles: Oregon Passage (1957) and Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958).

And if that’s not enough, there’s Raton Pass (1951), Russ Tamblyn again in Son Of A Gunfighter (1965) and a couple spaghetti westerns, including one, Ringo And His Golden Pistol, from Sergio Corbucci. Told you it was a good week.

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Shootout Medicine Bend 36

Directed by Richard L. Bare
CAST: Randolph Scott, James Craig, Angie Dickinson, Dani Crayne, James Garner, Gordon Jones

This is one we’ve all been waiting for and it’s on its way from Warner Archive: Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957), a fairly obscure Randolph Scott movie that gave early roles to Angie Dickinson and James Garner. There’s a big connection between this film and Warner Bros.’ Cheyenne and Maverick TV series. Director Richard L. Bare directed episodes of each, Garner and Dickinson appeared in both (Garner, or course, was a lead on Maverick), and DP Carl Guthrie shot some of each show. In fact, being in black and white, Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend has the feel of a Warner Bros. TV Western. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

TCM ran this recently as part of their tribute to James Garner (it was his first Western feature), and it’s a pretty solid Western with an oddball touch here and there. Warner Bros. must not have seen much promise in it; a Scott Western hadn’t been shot in black and white since 1949. But it looks good, thanks to Carl Guthrie, who shot a number of excellent late-50s Westerns. His color work on Quantez (also 1957) is terrific.

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Written and Directed by Delmer Daves
Director Of Photography: J. Peverell Marley, ASC
Film Editor: Clarence Kolster
Music by Victor Young

CAST: Alan Ladd (Johnny Mckay), Audrey Dalton (Nancy Meek), Marisa Pavan (Toby), Robert Keith (Bill Satterwhite), Charles Bronson (Captain Jack)

Not long after Shane (1953), Alan Ladd left Paramount, the studio that made him a star, and launched his independent company, Jaguar. Their first film was Drum Beat (1954). Based on the 1873 Modoc War, Ladd plays an Indian fighter recruited by President Grant to find a way to peace with the Modoc. Turns out the tribe wants peace, but a chief named Captain Jack (Charles Bronson) and his band of renegades are lousing things up. Repeated attempts for a peaceful resolution are unsuccessful, and we get a very exciting last couple of reels.

Though I’m not a big Alan Ladd fan, I really liked this one. It wears its “sympathetic treatment of the Indians” thing well, but never forgets that it’s action that puts people in the seats. Boy, a lot of people get shot in this thing.

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My job is to protect the wagon train. When somebody shoots at my people, I shoot back.”
— Alan Ladd

Ladd and Daves (and, of course, DP J. Peverell Marley) shot Drum Beat in Warnercolor and the then-new CinemaScope. As was the custom with ‘Scope at the time, they avoided close-ups, went for long takes whenever possible, and gave us lots of gorgeous vistas of Sonora, Arizona, and the Coconino National Forest. Daves always showed off the landscape in his Westerns, making each setting an essential element of the film, and this is one of Drum Beat’s great strengths. If there’s a film that makes better use of the Sonora area, I don’t know what it is.

The cast is a 50s Western fan’s dream: James H. Griffith (as a Civil War veteran who lost a leg at Shilo), Frank Ferguson, Elisha Cook, Jr., Willis Bouchey, Perry Lopez, Anthony Caruso, Denver Pyle and Strother Martin (who I heard was in it, but somehow missed). Of course, Charles Bronson makes quite an impression as Captain Jack in his first film under his new name (it had been Buchinsky, which was considered too Russian-sounding in the HUAC years).

With Drum Beat, Warner Archive gives us a pretty good-looking DVD. The Warnercolor is, well, Warnercolor — but here it looks as good as I’ve ever seen it look. The image is a tad soft at times (varying from shot to shot), some of which we can blame on the early CinemaScope. The audio is excellent; I love the stereo sound of these early Scope pictures, with an actor’s voice following them as they move around within the wide frame. This is a really good film, and a real treat in widescreen and stereo (I’d love to see a Blu-ray turn up someday). Highly recommended.

Alan Ladd and Delmer Daves reunited for The Badlanders (1958), also available from Warner Archive. I haven’t seen it in ages, and I’m really eager to revisit it.

Along with Drum Beat, two more Ladd Westerns came riding into town, thanks to Warner Archive.

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The Big Land (1957)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
CAST: Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Anthony Caruso, Julie Bishop and John Qualen

Ladd’s a cattle man who works to build a town around a railroad hub, which will benefit the local ranchers. Of course, there’s someone who doesn’t want all this to happen.

As a drunk, Edmond O’Brien steals every scene he’s in. He’s terrific. This is WarnerColor again, and it’s not as well-behaved as it is in Drum Beat. Good movie, though, especially if you’re a fan of O’Brien or Virginia Mayo. Gordon Douglas is as dependable as ever.

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Guns Of The Timberland (1960)
Directed by Robert D. Webb
CAST: Alan Ladd, Jeanne Crain, Gilbert Roland, Frankie Avalon

This time, Ladd’s a lumberjack who arrives in the Northwest to take out a lot of trees. The townspeople are afraid Ladd’s efforts will cause mudslides and do other environmental harm. Frankie Avalon sings “Gee Whiz Whillikins Golly Gee,” which Bugs Bunny used to sing in the bumpers to The Bugs Bunny Show on Saturday mornings. This tune is just one of the things that put Guns Of The Timberland in that goofy time period that a lot of series Westerns exist in, where Old and New West, cars and buckboards peacefully coexist.

Jeanne Crain is beautiful, Gilbert Roland is as cool as ever, and Lyle Bettger actually gets to be a good guy for once. The Technicolor makes it to DVD looking like a million bucks, while alcohol has Ladd looking just terrible.

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As part of an all-day tribute to James Garner on Monday, July 28 (at 8AM ET), TCM is running a hard-to-find Randolph Scott Western, Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957). Directed by Richard Bare, it stands as Garner’s only 50s Western — and a rather oddball entry in Scott’s final decade as a Western star. It’s also noteworthy as one of Angie Dickinson’s first films. (They’re not listing this as being letterboxed, but we’ll manage.)

Warner Archive, what’s holding this one up?

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James Garner
1928 – 2014

Some celebrities, you’d swear you actually knew them. Maybe you invite them into your home every week (through your TV). Perhaps you can’t remember a time when you weren’t aware of them. Or it could be that they just come off so real. All of those apply to James Garner.

Garner didn’t make much of a mark on the 50s Western, at least not in theaters. (1957’s Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend is the only one he did.) But his Maverick is still a milestone in Westerns on TV. And John Sturges’ Hour Of The Gun (1967, above) is one of the best post-50s Westerns out there, largely due to Garner’s performance — and one of the most sadly overlooked.

I was 10 years old when The Rockford Files (below) debuted, and after binge-watching it countless times over the years, I’m convinced it’s the greatest TV show ever. If I ever fall into a lot of money, you can bet that a gold mid-70s Pontiac Firebird Esprit will find its way to my driveway.

But there’s so much more. The Great Escape (1963). Grand Prix (1966). Marlowe (1968). Those great Doris Day pictures. Support Your Local Sheriff (1969). I’m just getting started.

I’m not making a lot of sense here. Thinking of James Garner and his body of work is a bit mind-boggling right now, and I’m struggling to find a coherent thread through it all. So I’ll just say I miss him already and thank God we can continue to benefit from his talent.

Visit Laura’s place for her thoughts on Garner. An obituary is here.

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Fred M article

Want to pass along the link to a piece on Fred MacMurray’s 50s Westerns. These are favorites of many of us that hang around this blog.

Of the eight Westerns he made between 1953 and 1959, four are available in the States on DVD, and you’ll find them at ClassicFlix.com.

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